6.1 Center Structure
The Center is an independently funded non-profit entity under the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State University. The Center contracts with the Commission to provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to entities involved with the Program. The services provided by the Center are outlined in the next section. In addition to supporting the Commission part of the Program, the Center also contracts with various other entities such as the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Game Commission to provide similar training and research services.
6.2 Center Services
6.2.1 Education and Training
The primary education tool of the Program is the two-day ESM course developed, maintained, and presented by the Center. The Center also hosts an annual maintenance workshop for Program participants that include multiple classroom sessions and field demonstration projects. The Center is also involved in various other trainings and educational efforts such as district administrative training, GIS trainings, and topic-specific trainings and webinars. Details of these educational services can be found in section 3.6.
The Center performs various activities in an effort to promote the Program and environmentally sensitive road maintenance principles. Such activities include participating in various professional meetings and trade shows, representing Program interests on various nationwide panels and committees, and creating and distributing promotional materials for the Program.
6.2.3 Project Technical Assistance
Center staff is available to help district staff with project planning, design, implementation and inspection. This technical assistance can be in the form of phone, e-mail, or site visits. The Center typically provides on-site assistance with projects that involve new District staff, new or innovative techniques, or especially complicated projects. Some typical services performed on technical assistance on-site visits include: on-site training of new district staff, project evaluation and planning, grant application review, interactions with applicants; conflict resolution, project stationing and site-plan development, driving surface aggregate preparation and placement assistance, project implementation and oversight assistance, and review of completed projects. It is important to note that the focus of providing this technical assistance is to build capacity at the district. Center staff will work through the district for all interactions with Program applicants.
6.2.4 Program Technical Assistance
In addition to project-related technical assistance, the Center is also available to answer any Program-related questions or address issues the district and applicants may have on a wide variety of topics. This technical assistance can be done via phone, e-mail, or even by in-office visits when large issues or new district staff is involved. If a policy interpretation or administrative assistance is needed, the Center will forward questions and concerns to staff at the Commission.
6.2.5 Written and Digital Reference Material
The Center creates and distributes a wide variety of reference material that is available both in print and online including:
- ESM training guidebook.
- Technical Bulletins on specific ESM practices.
- Write-ups about innovative projects.
- Quarterly newsletters containing Program updates.
- Annual summary reports for the Program.
- Cooperation with Commission on Program policy and guidance documents.
The Center maintains a comprehensive website including reference material for the Program as well as other Center activities. The website can be found at here.
6.2.7 GIS and Reporting
The Program uses a customized GIS system, detailed in section 3.9, to track the locations, deliverables, and expenditures for all road project work. The Center is responsible for the development, maintenance, and training of this GIS system; as well as the collection of the annual summary report from districts. The Center also works with the Commission to develop reports to provide to the state legislature and others based on county data.
The Center, in conjunction with the Commission, maintains several advisory workgroups to the Program. District staff makes up the majority of the workgroups. The workgroups act in an advisory capacity only, making recommendations to the Commission for approval. There are four active workgroups that meet on an as-needed basis. The education and outreach workgroup deals with the ESM Course content and format, the annual maintenance workshop planning, and various other outreach and education efforts such as GIS trainings, roundtables, and more. The policy and planning workgroup deals with allocation and policy recommendations to the Commission. The low-volume road workgroup was created in 2014 specifically to handle issues related to the new low-volume road program. The product and process workgroup deals with technical issues such as Driving Surface Aggregate and approving products for use with Program funds.
6.2.9 DSA Clearinghouse
The Center maintains a “DSA Clearinghouse” that is designed to facilitate DSA purchasing and placements around the state by creating a central point of contact and information for aggregate suppliers and districts. This “DSA Clearinghouse” is described in section 7.2.
The Center performs a limited amount of research on practices and policies that directly affect the Program. Research topics vary widely from road sediment quantification, to cost- benefit analyses, to development of new and innovative practices.
While the Quality Assurance/Quality Control process, described in section 2.3, is led by Commission staff, the Center still plays a significant role in the process. The Center has worked with the Commission to develop the QAQC process. Center staff is part of the QAQC visit team and typically assume a role related to the evaluation of completed project sites.
6.2.12 Product and Process Approvals
All products and materials purchased with Program funds must adhere to the Program’s non pollution standards. The product and process workgroup develops product testing protocols. These protocols are then reviewed by the Commission. When a product is submitted for approval, the workgroup reviews the product according to Commission approved protocols. A list of approved products is maintained on the Center’s Products page.